In an astonishing, detailed, and carefully written decision, Judge Peter Lynch handed a victory to Westmere Terrace residents and a gas-station owner, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the Town of Guilderland Planing Board and Pyramid Management Group.
The decision makes null and void all of the approvals the Planning Board gave to Pyramid for its proposed development project known as the “Rapp Road Residential/Western Avenue Mixed Use Redevelopment Projects. This is a significant victory for the residents, for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, and for the environment. The 77-page decision by Judge Lynch is well worth reading.
Read the Court’s November 2020 decision here (Adobe Acrobat PDF):
THOMAS HART, LISA HART, KEVIN MCDONALD,SARAH MCDONALD, 1667 WESTERN AVENUE, LLCAnd RED-KAP SALES, INC., Petitioners, -against- TOWN OF GUILDERLAND, PLANNING BOARD AND ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF GUILDERLAND, PYRAMIDMANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC, RAPP ROAD DEVELOPMENT, LLC and CROSSGATES RELEASCO,LLC,Respondents. INDEX NO. 906179-20 (November 20, 2020)
ALBANY, NY: Todd Ommen from the Pace Environmental Ligation Clinic representing Save the Pine Bush, filed an amicus brief in March in the case known as Thomas Hart, Lisa hart, Kevin Mcdonald, Sarah Mcdonald, 1667 Western Avenue, LLC and Red-Kap Sales, Inc., v. Town of Guilderland, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals of Guilderland, Pyramid Management Group, LLC, Rapp Road Development, LLC and Crossgates Releaseco, LLC (Hart v. Guilderland),
Hart v. Guilderland was filed by attorney James Bacon. Last November, in a lengthy and scathing decision by Supreme Court Judge Peter A. Lynch, the approval for a proposed development by Pyramid in the Pine Bush consisting of apartments, town houses and a Costco by the Town of Guilderland Planning Board was declared null and void.
Pyramid and the Town appealed Judge Lynch’s decision to the New York State Appellate Division in January. Save the Pine Bush’s amicus supports Judge Lynch’s detailed and excellent decision finding that the Town of Guilderland Planning Board did not take a “hard look” during the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) process.
Save the Pine Bush files Second lawsuit over Guilderland Planning Board’s approval of Pyramid project
A week after a judge in Albany County Supreme Court ruled in favor of a group of Westmere residents and a Guilderland gas-station owner who were seeking to stop construction of a 222-unit development on Rapp Road and proposed Costco Wholesale store, a not-for-profit organization has filed a lawsuit over the same projects.
Save the Pine Bush is bringing the suit based on the Guilderland Planning Board’s August adoption of the findings statement for Pyramid’s Rapp Road and Western Avenue projects, as well as the October site-plan approval given to the company’s apartment and townhome development — an approval that was given based on the findings statement.
A findings statement is part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process and is prepared after a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) has been filed but before the lead agency makes its final determination about an action or project.
See the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Town of Guilderland website:
Save the Pine Bush’s comments on the DEIS
Here are Save the Pine Bush’s comments written by Christopher M. Walker, , Legal Intern appearing pursuant to the Practice Order of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc.
Download all the documents in a zipped file.
Additional comments by other Save the Pine Bush members
Contribute to the fight! Your donations help fund the scientists who are documenting the unique nature of these lands: RappRoadGoFundMe.org
Description of the Project:
The Town of Guilderland Planning Board should reject the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed development by Pyramid (Crossgates) to build massive apartment complexes, office space and expansive retail on Rapp Road, the Mall Road and Western Avenue. This proposed development includes a Costco with 700 car parking lot and a gas station.
The Town of Guilderland Planning Board should remove itself as lead agency because it illegally allowed alteration of the site during the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review by permitting a wooded lot to be clear-cut of its trees on March 26, 2020.
The following are not adequately addressed in (DEIS):
The proposed development borders the Pine Bush Preserve and the proposed development is completely within the boundaries of the Pine Bush study area. The Albany Pine Bush is considered the best example of an inland pine barrens ecosystem in the world. The Pine Bush contains 78 wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the federal and state-endangered Karner blue butterfly) and state-threatened frosted elfin butterfly, and the largest inland sand dune system in eastern North America. The site has been designated a National Natural Landmark, a National Heritage Area Site, a NYS Bird Conservation Area and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Appendices F and G in the DEIS are inadequate to evaluate the impact of the proposed development on the plant and animal species in the Pine Bush.
This Pine Bush habitat is threatened by the proposed development, whether it is adjacent to the construction or a few hundred feet away. These species are important not only to the Pine Bush, but to the local ecosystem as well. The cumulative impact of this development plus other proposals on the Pine Bush is not adequately addressed in the DEIS.
The world is experiencing the sixth major extinction. The mitigation measures offered in the DEIS are inadequate to address the destruction of 46 acres of land. The proposed development decreases the size of the Pine Bush and the mitigation measures offer no possibility for expanding the habitat.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is woefully incomplete because it does not adequately address the effect this massive development would have on the ecosystem of the Pine Bush, or the effect on plant and animal the species.
Comments on the DEIS were due to the Planning Board by Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 4:30 PM
The DEIS is so long, what should I read?
Read the letter Pyramid/Crossgates sent to the Planning Board on what they are offering in exchange for being allowed to build.
Read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It is not that long.
Read comments from SEQRA agencies.
Read comments from non-SEQRA agencies, including the Chamber of Commerce.